Grace Sorentino hasn't exactly been lucky in life. In a playground of the rich, she's stuck selling cosmetics behind the counter at the Saks in West Palm Beach.
Lady luck takes a turn for the worse when Grace inadvertently insults a wealthy customer. The hard-ass lady boss fires Grace. Along with a severance check, the manager gives her some advice: hook a wealthy widow, reel him in and get a ring on her finger.
Stunned, Grace absorbs the tip on her way home in the middle of the day. She walks into her dingy apartment to find her 16 year-old daughter Jackie has ditched school and jumped in bed with her new skinhead boyfriend.
Grace can't believe how her life has turned out. Where did the failure begin? Was it when she dropped out of junior college? Was it when she was married to her loser husband? Or when she dumped him and became a single parent? Was it when she taught Jackie to appreciate money they didn't have and the fine goods they couldn't buy?
With nothing to lose, Grace begins to read the obituaries and attend funerals. She justifies her actions to herself by claiming extreme desperation for a wealthy man to rescue her out of semi-skilled financial hell.
The first funerals are merely learning experiences. Grace has a set age range (not too old, so she doesn't look like an obvious gold digger) and religious preference (Jewish). Just as she's about to give up the charade and find a real job, Grace finds a potential catch in recently-widowed Sam Goodwin.
She pretends to have known the dearly departed Anne Goodwin from their mutual devotion to charity work. Grace waits for the right time and approaches Sam. She concocts a scheme that will set up several meetings with the handsome 64 year-old widow.
Grace thinks she's playing an easy game. She plans to sink her hooks into the vulnerable man, marry him and live in a fantasy world. A ring on her finger will be the answer to her dreams. She'll never worry about money again and she'll be able to regain control of her daughter.
However, the game doesn't go as planned. Grace finds she cares for Sam. Unfortunately, her lies are building, increasing her chances of being caught.
Digging for gold in West Palm Beach isn't as easy as it seems in the game of
This Warren Alder work is quite unique. It doesn't quite fit into any category. There's some humor, some sadness, some love and some events that leave me scratching my head.
The story is most enjoyable if the reader has no pre-set expectations. Read the book as one would roll with the tide and it is quite an enjoyable ride.
At points it is hard to like the characters in Mourning Glory. Grace blames everything except herself for her present situation. Jackie is a grade-A bitch. And Sam isn't exactly the loyal widow he appears to be.
Still, this cast has endearing qualities that grow on you. In the end, I felt my usually doubtful self rooting for these people to happily resolve the mess they made.
The conclusion is a little off-beat. Possibly far-fetched, but still fun. Everybody gets what they deserveand a little more. Going into further detail would start the spoiler parade so I'll just leave it at that.
Mourning Glory is the ideal book-club discussion book. There's conflict everywhere. Grace struggles with her scheme. Sam struggles with his own secrets. Readers struggle as well, trying separate right from wrong.
There will be some readers who absolutely hate these characters and the choices they make. Others will secretly root for one, the other or all. In the end, no two readers will perceive the events the same way, and that makes for good club discussion.
Mourning Glory is Warren Adler's 24th novel. His dedication to the craft has produced some memorable stories such as War of the Roses and Random Hearts. Though these books have also had success on the movie screen, Adler's writing doesn't seem to be affected. He still weaves his tales purely for lovers of the printed word. There's nothing more annoying than reading a novel in which the author is clearly trying to act as screenwriter. Mourning Glory stands on its own as a solid story, without trying to do double duty as a movie script.
With all of this success, Alder still manages to remain appreciative and available to his audience. He gladly gives interviews and has an official web site full of information for devoted fans (warrenadler.com). This accessibility only elevates my respect for the author.
I recommend Mourning Glory. It is an ideal weekend read. Whether you love the characters or hate them, you will admit they are interesting. Adler provides another entertaining story in a long string of successful novels.